Darren Foster locked in as WA’s most senior public servant

By Stephen Easton

Thursday July 20, 2017

Darren Foster’s ongoing appointment as director-general of the Western Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet has been officially confirmed by the state governor.

The WA Public Sector Commission revealed Foster would be director-general of both DPC and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs — which will be merged into the central agency — among a list of new agency heads published in late April.

However, with the new government embarking on sweeping machinery-of-government changes to drastically reduce the size of its workforce, the PSC only said the listed leaders would be in place for “the medium term” so it was not clear how long the arrangements would last.

Only shortly before the PSC spilled the beans, Foster had been seconded to DPC as an acting deputy director-general from the Department of Fisheries, where he had worked at the same level since 2015 and was responsible for aquaculture, fisheries management, legal services, environment and biosecurity.

He has also worked as director of strategic policy and planning in WA’s Office of the Environmental Protection Authority, and in senior policy and strategy roles for federal and local governments as well.

Foster was chief of staff to Premier Mark McGowan for the final four years of Labor’s last term of government, when McGowan was a minister with several portfolios.

David Smith had been DPC’s acting director-general since last August, following the retirement of its last permanent director-general, Peter Conran, who steered the central agency since his appointment in 2008 by the freshly elected Barnett government.

Smith has been tapped to lead the new Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, which will be formed by merging the Department of Mines and Petroleum and the Department of Commerce.

“I congratulate Mr Foster on this appointment and recognise him for his achievements in government over the past three decades,” McGowan said in a statement today.

“Mr Foster brings a wealth of experience from across policy, management and operational areas which will strengthen his duties in spearheading the administration of executive government services and government policy management.

“He shows strong qualities of leadership, accountability, collaboration and innovation which are central to his role as the Department of the Premier and Cabinet continues to support my office and the Government to serve the Western Australian community.”

According to the statement, Foster has gained experience in “environment, treasury and finance, energy, health, education and training, tourism, racing and gaming and native title” over a 30-year career:

“Mr Foster’s role will see him oversee a range of strategic and management activities such as the communication and promotion of the State Government’s job-creating policies and initiatives, provision of administrative support to the Premier, Ministerial Offices and the Leader of the Opposition as well as leadership and co-ordination of cross-agency solutions to complex policy issues.

“He will help implement machinery of government changes that will see a more efficient and effective public sector deliver better services to Western Australians.”

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